MONDAY December 8
When I was still in college, my alma mater Rutgers paid Toni Morrison $30,000 to serve as commencement speaker. That same year, Rutgers paid Jersey Shore personality Snooki $32,000 just to appear. As a lover of fine literature and follower of Ms. Morrison’s long, long career, that seemed like a failure.
Ms. Morrsion published her first novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970, and from then was nominated for basically every literary award one can be nominated for in a lifetime, including the National Book Critics Circle award, a Pulitzer in 1988 and the Nobel Prize for Fiction in 1993. It was at Rutgers that I was assigned the book that earned Ms. Morrison that Pulitzer, Beloved. The book’s all-encompassing theme, “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined,” stays with me. It seems after a career well-spent and countless readers’ lives well-touched, a simple commencement speech check doesn’t define as failure.
Even after years of dabbling as a teacher, editor, and even librettist, Ms. Morrison has returned to the novel time and time again. Her latest, God Help the Child, comes next April, a “compact, fierce work of contemporary fiction, one that unfolds in the aftermath of an allegation made by a student about a teacher.”
The Nation Institute, a non-profit media center dedicated both to independent press and social and civil justice, will honor Ms. Morrison’s latest work and all her award-winning work at its 2014 Annual Gala Dinner. Emceed by writer and MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, the dinner will also be attended by Honorary Chairs Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, Cecile Richards and Tony Kushner.
The 2014 Nation Insitutute Gala Dinner Honoring Toni Morrison will be held at The Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 W 18th St, New York, NY 10019, on Monday December 8.
Benefactor Table: $25,000; Co-Chair Table: $10,000; Patron Ticket: $2,500; Sponsor Ticket: $1,000; Friend Ticket: $550